Happy Moltmann Monday! Today’s selection comes from The Church in the Power of the Spirit in a chapter where he’s discussing what it means for the Church to be called Jesus’ Church.
The Church must first of all reflect and represent the lordship of Christ in itself. It cannot adopt its social order from the way in which the society in which it lives is run, or allow its social order to be determined by that; for it has to correspond to its Lord and to represent new life for society. It cannot be a racial church which permits racial separation and discrimination within its fellowship. It cannot be a class church, which sanctions from above a separation or conflict of classes in its own fellowship. It cannot be a male church, tolerating patriarchal forms of rule within itself. It cannot be a national church, which bolsters up national arrogance by its own limitations and ideas…The Church is not a ‘holy autocracy’; it is the fellowship of believers who follow the one Lord and have been laid hold of by the one Spirit. It is in principle the community of equals, equipped with equal rights and equal dignity.
So, this passage is pretty straightforward. And yet, it’s very HARD to do. It’s setting the bar pretty high, asking our local churches not to fall into the traps of social conformity, discrimination, sexism, nationalism. Those are some pretty huge potholes, and surely most of us would like to avoid them. How on earth can we do this? Well, in the one sentence I left out from above, Moltmann tells us:
In the church of Christ the religious, economic and sexual privileges that obtain in the world around lose their focus. But if they lose their force and validity, then another power holds sway- the power of the Spirit.
This is practical theology right here. What happens when we divest ourselves of the “world’s” values of racism, classism, sexism, etc.? Well, there is an empty space, and in that space, the Spirit can come in and bring change, bring its own life-giving structure. It’s like a practical church kenosis (emptying) where, when we move away from those worldly forces, the Spirit of Life given to this world for its healing can actually come and get to work in us, and with us, and through us, and beyond us.
You know, like the Church is supposed to do.
Is this easy? No. Do we do this well? No. Can we divest ourselves of all the -isms? I doubt it. But that sure doesn’t mean we don’t try. Because when we empty out that space, wouldn’t you know it? We leave a little room for the Holy Spirit to get to work. And that’s when life and transformation happen. We don’t need all the space possible. Just enough space. Just breathing room, to start.
Still hard. But yeah, that’s doable. We trust it is, because the Spirit’s on our side. We trust it will happen in faith, even with the smallest bit of breathing room as a starting point.